Put on a good face

Make-up artists with actress Sonakshi Sinha

The imagination of make-up artists has created some of our most memorable villains, heroes and aliens. They use their skills to make actors look good (or bad), make wounds and scars look believable, and monsters look frightening.

What’s this career about?

A make-up artist is a professional who uses cosmetic skills and processes to create beauty upon the human body. He/she improves a person’s appearance, bringing out colour and features and hiding or smoothing out flaws, using cosmetic products.

Those involved in stage, film or television production help the performer and the director create a particular look for a character — they’re usually given a script and decide what tools will be needed to create the desired effect.

The character and time period in which the drama takes place are both carefully researched. Changes in a character’s age or physical appearance must be planned. Make-up artists also have to take into account what kind of lights will be used. Application is recorded in detail so that it can be repeated every night (live theatre) or weeks later (if a film is being shot out of sequence).

Artists who work for photographers and modelling agencies are called cosmetic make-up artists. They use make-up to enhance a model’s good looks. The training for doing make-up artistry for film and TV is more in-depth and generally requires more experience.

Some artists specialize in special effects make-up, which may include use of prosthetics. Prosthetics are artificial parts that are added to an actor’s body to change their appearance. Examples of prosthetics include vampire teeth, head moulds, special contact lenses, and nose, cheek and chin pieces — basically anything that will change the actor’s physical appearance.

Make-up artists work both in studios and on location. The hours of work depend on when and where the production is occurring. They are usually required to be on location 2-3 hours before everyone else. Film work isn’t quite as glamorous as people think. They need to wait around a lot. Stamina and endurance are very important in this line of work.


  • How do I get there?
  • Key skills
  • Institutes
  • Employment prospects and pay packages
  • Hot locations

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Dr Vibha Gupta

Dr Vibha Gupta

Dr Vibha Gupta, a feature writer, is a Ph.D. in Mathematics from IIT Roorkee. Her book Careers: A Pathfinder and articles in various publications are an attempt to guide students in choosing a career according to their natural strengths, talents and skills.